Mitt Romney: Vote for me -- or for Herman Cain

I don’t get it. Why would Romney want to promote a “true conservative” competitor who’s, er … much less organized and lightly funded than Rick Perry?

You know who this benefits?

Mitt Romney’s affection for Herman Cain has been well documented, at POLITICO and elsewhere. Romney took it to the next level at a New Hampshire town hall this evening.

“We each have our own experiences, he’s a great guy. Vote for either one of us and you’ll be happy,” Romney said, per POLITICO’s Reid Epstein.

Romney also called Cain a “terrific guy” and said voters should “give him a good look.”

So obvious and cynical is the game here that if I were Cain, I’d find it patronizing. Don’t agree? Here’s what else he said at the town hall tonight:

After talking about his experience going from Bain Capital to the governor’s mansion, Romney suggested that Cain was, perhaps, not quite as ready as he is for the Oval Office.

“I was able to find ways to use my skills in a public sector setting, probably something — if I were Herman — I’d say I wish I had that too because you don’t want to necessarily learn that for the first time as the president of the United States,” Romney said.

Romney’s jab at the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO came in response to a question from a college student who has asked Romney to contrast himself with Cain.

Translation: “He’d be a risk due to his inexperience, but that’s okay as long as you’re not thinking about voting for the guy who governed Texas for 10 years with terrific job growth.” As a gloss on this, go read Philip Klein’s short but insightful post about the persistent weakness of the GOP field. Since 1959, no Republican has gone on to win the presidency without earning at least 40 percent of the primary vote at this point in the race. Our top tier, meanwhile, is chronically mired in the mid to low 20s, with Romney so desperate to break through the 25-percent ceiling that he’s now actually touting other candidates in the race to try to force the most advantageous hold-your-nose Romney vs. Not Romney showdown that he can. It’s come to this, my friends. Or no, rather — it’s come to this.

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